Christmas market extended after unrest

The Christmas Continental Market, at Belfast City Hall

The continental market at Belfast City Hall has been extended for an extra weekend to make up for days lost due to the flag protests.

Friday, 14 December 2012
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Belfast City Council said the market will now stay open through to Sunday 23 December.

It explained it has been working with central government on a £140,000 package of measures aimed at helping traders in the run up to Christmas.

Three hundred free car parking spaces will be put on this weekend at Raphael Street near the gasworks and at Ormeau Avenue, close to Ormeau baths.

A significant marketing campaign is also set to get underway.

It comes after city centre shopping was affected over the past two weeks due to loyalist protests over City Council's decision to stop flying the Union flag all year round.

The continental market was forced to temporarily close on two occasions.

Lord Mayor Gavin Robinson said over 80% of traders at the market have now agreed to stay for an extra three days beyond the original closing date of Thursday 20 December.

"Everyone knows the city has suffered in the past week or so but we are all keen to positively move forward and showcase the real side of Belfast for the remaining days of the Christmas season," explained the DUP mayor.

"It will begin this weekend and run throughout next week and we will be particularly keen to encourage workers in the city centre to take advantage of late night shopping and entice others into the city in the evenings through a series of exciting measures."

2012 has been a great year for Belfast and this package of measures will really help to make Christmas even better in Belfast this year.

Stephen Magorrian, Belfast Visitor and Convention Bureau

St George's Market has also extended its opening hours in the lead up to Christmas.

It will stay open to 9pm from next Monday to Wednesday, with school choirs and local bands performing, and a daily draw for a special St George's Market Christmas hamper.

Smithfield Market is open from 1pm and 5.30pm each Sunday in the run up to Christmas.

There will also be street entertainment around the city including musicians, street theatre and circus performers at Donegall Place, Castle Place, Cornmarket and outside City Hall.

It will run from this weekend through to New Year's Eve.

Mr Robinson added: "It's all shaping up to be an exciting last 10 days for the city and we confidently believe any shopper who comes into the city centre next week is set for an enjoyable experience as the excitement of Christmas builds in Belfast."

Belfast traders have welcomed the £140,000 cash injection.

"There has been recognition of the difficulties being faced by traders in the capital city and we welcome this tangible support," Belfast City Centre Manager Andrew Irvine said.

"It is vitally important to the economy of the City that the unique offering of Belfast is promoted as strongly as possible."

The Chair of Belfast Visitor and Convention Bureau, Stephen Magorrian, added: "With only 11 days left, I hope this encourages everyone to visit soon to experience what’s truly great about this bustling city at this magical time of year in Belfast."